A New Brighton woman has been acquitted of all charges in connection with the shooting death of her neighbor after a long-simmering feud boiled over last May.
Judge Lezlie Ott-Marek found Paula Zumberge, 50, not guilty of any criminal charges in connection with the shooting death of her neighbor, Todd G. Stevens.
She was tried last week on four counts, including aiding and abetting second-degree murder, aiding and abetting attempted second-degree murder and two counts of assault. Paula Zumberge waived the right to a trial by jury.
Prosecutors accused Zumberge of encouraging her husband to "shoot, shoot, keep shooting" as he allegedly fired away at Stevens and his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, who was injured. Authorities had said the Zumberges hatched a plan to lure Stevens and Damerow-Cleven outside so her husband, Neal Zumberge, could shoot them.
Judge Ott-Marek wrote in Tuesday's ruling, "the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Paula Zumberge] spoke any words of encouragement to Neal Zumberge either before or during the shooting," FOX 9 reports.
Ott-Marek also said Damerow-Cleven's testimony during the trial was inconsistent, and that repeating the words "it just happened so fast" shows she was confused during the chaotic and traumatic shooting, the news station notes.
Neal Zumberge, 57, is charged with second-degree murder with intent, and attempted second-degree murder in the May 5 fatal shooting, which reportedly grew out of an ongoing dispute between the neighbors that revolved around the feeding of deer.
The trial came to a surprising end last week after Paula Zumberge’s lawyer, Gary Wolf, told the judge that neither she nor her husband would take the stand in the defense’s case because there was enough doubt in the prosecution's case to convince him that the couple didn't need to testify.
Wolf said last week that Damerow-Cleven lied on the witness stand and was acting out of vengeance by accusing Paula Zumberge of telling her husband to keep shooting at them.
The fatal shooting and pending murder trial reportedly grew out of a feud that had been simmering for years between the neighbors, who lived across the street from one another.
The complaint against the Zumberges says they were upset by deer feeders on Stevens’ property and blamed the animals for a case of Lyme disease Neal Zumberge said he’d contracted. Last year Damerow-Cleven had obtained a restraining order against Neal Zumberge, who she said was harassing her.
Damerow-Cleven had called police the week before the shooting to report that the Zumberges’ son, Jacob, had threatened to kill her and Stevens, authorities say.